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Muir Woods in San Francisco and deforestation in SL

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Pic:Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at a recent media briefing on protecting the Muthurajawela wetlands from a multi-use development project.

“Any fool can destroy trees. They can run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed – chased and hunted down as long as fun or dollar could be got out of their hides. branching horns, or magnificent bole back backbones. Few that fell trees plant them, nor would planting avail much toward getting back anything like the novel primeval forests. It took more than 3000 years to make some of the trees in the woods –  trees that are standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing …. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ’s time – and long before that – God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease avalanches, tempests, and floods; but he cannot save them from fools – only Uncle Sam can do that.

John Muir, letter to William Kent , 1909

Muir Woods is a forest reservation in San Francisco – California named after John Muir as John of the mountains or father of the national parks. He was a Scottish American April 1838 to December 24th 1924.

William Kent was a member of the US House of Representatives representing California 

The Island of (2/3/2021 ) has several articles on deforestation being carried out for agriculture and commercial projects such as commercial cultivation of Aloe Vera or building of hotels. The government’s initial popularity is gradually on the decline and permitting deforestation is one reason. I wrote to The Island on 11 January this year, pointing out that it was not necessary to clear forests to increase agriculture output. Increasing productivity by modern methods is the way out.

Muir Woods is a National monument, which protects the only large, intact stand of ancient redwoods in San Francisco Bay area which, I and my wife were fortunate to visit, thanks to my daughter and son-in-law. All elements of old-growth forests are there: mature redwoods, young seedlings, standing snags, logs and a diverse community of animals and understory plants. The magnificent red – barked trees, California coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). A few hundred years ago over two million acres of redwood grew in California. Today, 150,000 acres of old growth redwoods remain, only about half of which are protected in national and state parks.

Redwood creek applies a spectrum of watery habitats fish need their life cycle. If you spot a fish in Redwood Creek, it’s a coho salmon or steelhead trout. Both are anadromous; born in fresh water homes, as juveniles they migrate to the ocean, and then return to their freshwater homes as adults to spawn. Spawning fish can be seen in the creek between mid December and March, and young fish populate quiet pools during summer months.

On the contrary, in Sri Lanka, deforestation is occurring at an alarming rate and the forest cover is likely to disappear completely in a few decades. In 1990, the total forest cover was 2990 ha and in the year 2020 it decreased to 1946 ha. The forest cover has been reduced by 1044 ha.

A tree called Sri Lanka legume was discovered in 1868. Eventually it was declared extinct 2012.

It was discovered in 2019 that only one Sri Lankan legume tree, eight meters high, was found in the north of Colombo  near Gampaha  

 This rare species tree that was in danger of felling was put on an orange cloth by Buddhist priests. That courageous forest officer Devanee Jayatillake also rose to the occasion again objecting to the removal of the legume tee. There were arguments that that there are similar trees planted in Gampaha Botanical gardens and also that the tree could be translocated safely. Ultimately sanity prevailed and the expressway will be diverted to save the tree. One should realise the tree would have survived thousand years or more, no one knows, but it’s certain that the tree is one of oldest trees. America’s redwood trees it is said, had taken more than 3000 years to make.

His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith expressed his displeasure at the government’s failure to protect the Muthurajawela wetland.

He said in a statement that the Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera, State Minister for Wildlife Wimalaweera Dissanayake and the Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority Siripala Amarasinghe had promised not to carry out any project or destructive activities in Muthurajawela during the discussion held at the Archbishop’s residence on January 21st.

However, it has been officially announced that Muthurajawela and the surrounding villages will be taken over by the Urban Development Authority. Therefore, the Cardinal has requested the government to remove the signs stating that the area is already owned by a private company and rename it as a Wildlife Conservation Zone in Muthurajawela National Park. The Cardinal has now court intervention on this matter.

The Diyawanna wetland close to which I live is being developed. It is not Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte which is said to be the administrative capital. it’s the reclaimed wetlands of Battaramulla. The land on which Sethsiripaya stands was a marsh.

 

 Upali Cooray 

 



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Opinion

Covid-19: Bane of the Decade

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Bane was a true visionary with the Bat-man as his nemesis. For the record this isn’t even funny. If you dive deep into the theory of DC’s super villain Bane, and his nemesis the Bat-man, it sort of reveals how the masked antagonist envisioned the coronavirus pandemic, led by a bat, about a decade ago.

Of course, there aren’t absolute reports connecting COVID-19 to the nocturnal being, there’s enough to prove it is a carrier of the novel virus. But does this pandemic mean an end to the legacy of this caped crusader? To be honest, even uttering bat-shit crazy is deemed offensive as of now. Wonder what frenzy it will cast upon a comic character.

Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ introduced Bane, a mercenary trained under Ras Al Ghul’s League of Shadows. His mission was to wipe out Gotham for the greater divide of the haves and the have nots. As Selena Kylie suggests, ‘There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne, You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.’

While the scene did give us goosebumps, it is nothing different than the reality we’re facing at the moment. The lockdown has only been a boon for the elite, the privileged who can have access to more than what is required. Meanwhile, there are others struggling to arrange for a decent meal.

The narrative takes us into the character of Bane, wearing a mask, can be hurt if removed, and the story of our lives right now. Not to mention he started off by terrorising the city, only for everyone to remain at home – a lockdown.

Bane had only one enemy – The Bat. Quite familiar to the comparison now are we?

Here are some of his quotes that speak for the oppressed.

“The powerful will be ripped from their decadent nests and cast out into the cold world that we know and endure. Courts will be convened. Spoils will be enjoyed. The police will survive as they learn to serve true justice. This great city.. it will endure”

“Calm down doctor, now is not the time for fear. That comes later”

“Do you feel in charge?”

“Oh so you think darkness is your ally? But you merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it and didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was only blinding. The shadows betray you because they belong to me.”

A decade back this was all fiction, but did we ever imagine that a similar situation would be faced by us. At the very inception one never expected the COVID-19 situation to balloon into such a crisis. A lockdown helped initially and the situation was well under control, but the moment we relaxed and opened up things got worse, and are now beyond control. So a lockdown will not help us anymore. This calls for a major upheaval and revival of procedure, wherein we have to learn to cope up with the crisis. How will work get back to normal? Industries and factories have to function, how will the daily wage earner survive? The planning and implementation will have to be changed. We might even have to create a COVID-19 Ministry or Department, with an islandwide network, wherein we employ an army of doctors and specialists, not an army of soldiers. They have to study the root cause of the virus and how it can be eliminated, why certain areas and people are more susceptible than others in spreading the virus.

The order of the day will be to employ emergency doctors who can handle a situation immediately. Forensic Doctors, who can assist in studying guidelines and offences and help in framing appropriate laws. Infectious disease specialists, Ecologists and those engaged in environmental science. A team of Physicians to diagnose illnesses and administer treatment. One team will be required to see whether our hospitals are well equipped, correct medical equipment and drugs are available, Study whether the vaccines being manufactured are suitable, get the correct vaccines and see that everybody is vaccinated. See whether it would be necessary to set up a separate COVID-19 treatment centre.

It is surprising that India messed up badly, and opened up by having elections and organizing cricket tournaments such as the IPL, without studying the implications and detrimental factors of this virus, and how to cope with it.

It was really amusing to see commentators, who were very much in the open, advising others to wear masks, stay home and stay safe.

Actually it is a big joke when any radio announcer, TV presenter or role model or for that matter any Tom, Dick and Harry ask people to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay home and stay safe, when the causes seem to be yet unknown and precautions to be taken are far more complicated. Not that they are wrong, but it is very much more appreciated when given by a person more qualified to do so.

 

KAN BUTANI

 

 

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Opinion

Win or lose: Ali Sabry or Ananda Lanerolle? 

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A serious allegation has been levelled against Justice Minister Ali Sabry by Ananda Lanerolle, that the Minister had written a letter to the High Court Judge of Beddegama, asking for a favour in a case. Ananda had revealed this at a press conference held by Citizens’ Organisation for Democracy.  And now it is said that the Justice Minister has sent a letter of demand to Ananda Lenarolle asking for a compensation of Rs:1b for damaging his reputation by this false allegation (as reported in the Lankadeepa of 16 May). We quite often see this scenario in politics – allegations and letters of demand for compensation. And I do not know how many of them have got the reliefs. But false allegations continue to spread like wildfire. These days, the critical faculty of the common folk is so blunt that they simply accept whatever the politicians and their stooges  tell them at press conferences.What defies my logic in this allegation is Justice Minister Ali Sabry, a President Counsel  and a veteran lawyer by profession, writing a letter with his signature (a most authentic document) to a High Court judge asking for a favour in a case. No layman with an iota of common knowledge (not legal) will do it. Yet Lanerolle could not have made this allegation to the media without evidence either.  Who will eat humble pie, Ali Sabry or Ananda Lanerolle? 

M. A. KALEEL 
Kalmunai – 05

 

 

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Opinion

Countrywide Lockdown: Better late than never

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COVID cases are detected in large numbers throughout the country. There is no province or district that has been spared. The transmissibility of the current strains of the virus in circulation is quite high. In such a situation a lockdown on a provincial basis is meaningless. It is as if allowing the people to move freely spreading the disease within their province without taking it outside the province. The reason given for this view is that the economy cannot be brought to a standstill. However when the disease is already rampant, people will not be in a position to engage in any economic activity. As opposed to short term losses, wider spread of the disease will guarantee economic shutdown for a very long time.

The few countries like Australia and New Zealand which have achieved almost total eradication of the disease did so by imposing strict lockdowns even when a single case was detected in a locality. Vaccination is being carried out only now to prevent the epidemic raising its head again. It is meaningless to expect a vaccination programme, chaotic at best, to control the spread of an already rampant epidemic while allowing people to move freely, ignoring basic public health guidelines.

Hence it is imperative that the island-wide shut down imposed over the weekend is continued indefinitely until the epidemic abates significantly. People are used to such restrictions imposed early last year. Learning lessons from that experience, systems should be in place to ensure that essential services are maintained and people are able to obtain basic provisions like food, thus avoiding unbearable hardship. Daily wage earners should receive a cash handout to ease their loss of income.

I feel the medical professionals, who met the President recently, should have insisted on this rather than accepting the limited shutdown suggested by the authorities.

 

Dr. Sarath Gamini De Silva

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